Council Tax: Government’s Proposed Increase

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:02 pm on 25th January 2021.

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Photo of Emma Hardy Emma Hardy Shadow Minister (Education) 6:02 pm, 25th January 2021

I have spoken many times about covid and the impact on Hull West and Hessle, which, as highlighted by Amy Norman from the Social Market Foundation, will be hit harder because of the lasting hardships of the past decade. In a nutshell, the long-term impact of austerity will slow our recovery. To be blunt, the last thing that residents in Hull West and Hessle need is an £88 increase in their council tax bill and a £20 cut in universal credit. Hull City Council has faced a decade of cuts under each Conservative Government, and these cuts have hurt services. It was in a more stable situation until the covid pandemic, when its costs escalated again. Hull does not have the ability to raise all the additional funding that it needs from local residents, but it is simply unfair and too heavy a burden for local people to bear.

We must never let this Conservative Government place all the blame for the state of the economy on the pandemic. A decade of irresponsible choices from the Conservatives has left our economy on shaky ground even before covid hit. A quarter of households in the UK went into this pandemic with less than £100 in the bank, 3.6 million people are trapped in insecure work, and the UK is one of the most unequal countries in Europe. The Government must stick to their promise to do whatever is necessary to support councils’ funding. Instead of a Conservative Government penny-pinching from struggling families while at the same time wasting taxpayers’ money on failed PPE and questionable Government contracts with those with links to the party, we need a concrete plan for post-pandemic recovery, with a focus on green energy jobs and building on the ideas and talents that we have right here. Earlier today, I heard the news that Debenhams is closing its stores. That will hit Hull’s retail sector hard. I hope that when the Minister responds, he can give an answer on what he is going to do about our high streets.

In the longer term, there are two big projects that Government could get behind to help to generate jobs and speed our recovery from covid. Investing in the Hull lagoon project would create about 14,000 jobs. Our growth in the city is challenged by flood risk, and restricted by transport connectivity and a shortage of key development land. This home-grown solution has been driven by local businesspeople and has my full support. It will be bold and transformative, and I urge the Government to take it seriously. The Government could also approve the bid of Zero Carbon Humber, which would not only help to protect the environment, but create 50,000 jobs.

Together, such projects could fulfil Hull and East Riding’s potential to be the green capital of the UK. Here, in Hull West and Hessle, there is talent, ambition and drive, but that could be snuffed out if the Government continue to pursue economic policies that harm the poorest hard-working families. I urge them to think past just the needs of what they are going to do next week and instead think about how they can use the power of Government to follow Labour’s plan to invest long-term in green energy jobs.